5 Dogs that CHANGED HISTORY Dogs 101 – Animal Facts
People and dogs have always been BFFs. But today we are going to look at five dogs that went above and beyond what we normally expect from our canine companions and in the process changed the course of history.
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5. Rin Tin Tin
You’ve might have seen Rin Tin Tin ’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with Strongheart and Lassie.
This Hollywood superstar German Shepherd DOg was rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier, Lee Duncan, who nicknamed him “Rinty”.
Following advances made by American forces during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Corporal Lee Duncan, an aerial gunner of the U.S. Army Air Service, was sent forward on September 15, 1918, to the small French village of Flirey to see if it would make a suitable flying field for his unit, the 135th Aero Squadron.
The area had been subject to bombs and artillery, and Duncan found a severely damaged kennel which had once supplied the Imperial German Army with German Shepherd dogs. The only dogs left alive in the kennel were a starving mother with a litter of five nursing puppies, their eyes still shut. Duncan rescued the dogs and brought them back to his unit. After they were weaned, Duncan gave the mother and three of the puppies to members of his unit but kept Rinny and his sister Nanette both named after good luck charms French children would often give US soldiers.
In July 1919, Duncan managed to bundle the dogs aboard a ship taking them back to the US at the end of the war.
How did Rinny change history? By 1923, Warner Brothers were near bankruptcy and were in desperate need of a hit film.
Rin Tin Tin’s first starring role was in Where the North Begins, playing alongside silent screen actress Claire Adams. This film was a huge success and has often been credited with saving Warner Bros. from bankruptcy. It was followed by 24 more screen appearances. Each of these films was very popular, making such a profit for Warner Bros. that Rin Tin Tin was called “the mortgage lifter” by studio insiders.
His descendants went on to play even more roles, to be spokesdogs for the American Humane Society, and distant relatives can even be found as service dogs, today.
4. Smoky the War Dog
You might have expected a German Shepherd to be on a list of dogs that have changed history, but did you expect a Yorkie?
Smoky, a four-pound Yorkie found in a New Guinea foxhole, is said to have been the first therapy dog, but her story is much more interesting than that.
When she was found in that foxhole, she was already a young adult. The soldiers initially thought the small dog belonged to the Japanese, but after taking her to a nearby camp they realized she did not understand commands in Japanese or English.
For the next two years, Smoky back-packed through the rest of the war and accompanied Corporal William A. Wynne on combat flights in the Pacific. She faced adverse circumstances, living in the New Guinea jungle and Rock Islands, suffering the primitive conditions of tents in equatorial heat and humidity. Throughout her service, Smoky slept in Wynne’s tent on a blanket made from a green felt card table cover; she shared Wynne’s rations and an occasional can of Spam.
Unlike the “official” war dogs of World War II, Smoky had access to neither veterinary medicine nor a balanced diet formulated especially for dogs. In spite of this, Smoky was never ill.
Smoky Served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 air/sea rescue and photo reconnaissance missions, according to Wynne. Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars. She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa.
Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on an LST (transport ship), calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” As the ship deck was booming and vibrating from anti-aircraft gunnery, Smoky guided Wynne to duck the fire that hit eight men standing next to them.
In her downtime, Smoky learned numerous tricks, which she performed for the entertainment of troops with Special Services and in hospitals from Australia to Korea. According to Wynne, Smoky taught him as much as he taught her, and she developed a repertoire beyond that of any dog of her day.
In 1944, Yank Down Under magazine named Smoky the “Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area.”
Smoky’s tricks enabled her to become a hero in her own right by helping engineers to build an airbase at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, a crucial airfield for Allied warplanes. Early in the Luzon campaign, the Signal Corps needed to run a telegraph wire through a 70-foot-long pipe that was 8 inches in diameter. The soil had sifted through the corrugated sections at the pipe joinings, filling as much as half of the pipe, giving Smoky only four inches of headway in some places as she ran the line through.
Smoky’s work saved approximately 250 ground crewmen from having to move around 40 fighters and reconnaissance planes, while a construction detail dug up the taxiway, which would have placed the men and the planes in danger from enemy bombings. What would have been a dangerous three-day digging task to place the wire was instead completed by this little dog in minutes.
After returning to the states, Wynne and Smoky were featured in a page one story with photographs in the Cleveland Press on December 7, 1945.
Smoky soon became a national sensation. Over the next 10 years, Smoky and Wynne traveled to Hollywood and all over the world to perform demonstrations of her remarkable skills, which included walking a tightrope while blindfolded. Smoky performed in 42 live-television shows without ever repeating a trick. Smoky and Wynne were also very popular entertainers at the veterans’ hospitals until she passed away in 1957 at the approximate age of 14.
Nearly 50 years later, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, a bronze life-size sculpture of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet, atop a two-ton blue granite base, was unveiled. It is placed above the very spot that Smoky was laid for her final rest. This monument is dedicated to “Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and the Dogs of All Wars”.
A dog doesn’t have to be purebred to be a hero. It was the end of summer 1940. The Second World War was on, and France was a key battleground. Outside the country’s occupied zone, in the southern region of Dordogne, five boys and their dog went treasure hunting in the woods.
As they walked a path along the Vezere River, Robot, a white mutt with a brown patch around his left eye, ran ahead. The dog was drawn to a hole in the ground covered by foliage. The boys hurried to catch up with Robot, but once they reached the hole their dog had disappeared.
When Robot responded to the boys’ call, his bark was muffled from inside the entrance of a cave beneath the Lascaux Manor.
The boys, thinking Robot found a tunnel, descended into the hole and found a cave full of 17,000-year-old paintings.
What our mongrel-hero seemed to stumble upon that September day was nothing less than the evidence of our ancestors’ sensory evolution.
One theory suggests that, in a flickering flame, the paintings are designed to appear to move, making them the earliest animated motion.
Robot had definitely led the boys to treasure.
If you love dogs, you’ve likely seen the movie Balto. If not, just do it. It might not be factually accurate, but it’s a great movie.
n January 1925 doctors realized that a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic was poised to sweep through Nome, Alaska. The only serum that could stop the outbreak was in Anchorage. The engine of the only aircraft that could quickly deliver the medicine was frozen and would not start. After considering all of the alternatives, officials decided to move the medicine via multiple dog sled teams.
The serum was transported by train from Anchorage to Nenana, where the first musher embarked as part of a relay aimed at delivering the needed serum to Nome. More than 20 mushers took part, facing a blizzard with −23 °F temperatures and strong winds.
On February 2, 1925, the Norwegian Gunnar Kaasen drove his team, led by a Siberian Husky named Balto, into Nome.
Balto proved himself on the Iditarod trail, saving his team in the Topkok River. Balto was also able to stay on the trail in near whiteout conditions. And, Balto’s team did their leg of the run almost entirely in the dark.
After the mission’s success, Balto became a celebrity. A statue of Balto, sculpted by Frederick Roth, was erected in New York City’s Central Park on December 17, 1925, just 10 months after Balto’s arrival in Nome.
Balto himself was present for the monument’s unveiling. The statue is located on the main path leading north from the Tisch Children’s Zoo. In front of the statue a low-relief slate plaque depicts Balto’s sled team, and bears the following inscription:
Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925.
Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence
While all the dogs we’ve discovered so far have made marks in the 20th century, our next dog takes us way back as in 456 BC.
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In 456 B.C., the city of Corinth was protected by guard dogs trained to warn of invaders. One night, a group of Persians snuck into Corinth in an attempt to seize the city. It was nighttime and soldiers were sleeping. No one was expecting an attack.
Of the 50 guard dogs that fought to protect the city, Persian invaders killed 49, but one escaped. The dog, named Soter, warned the Corinthians, and they fought off the Persian invaders. As a reward, the people of Corinth gave Soter a pension for life and a silver collar that read, “To Soter, defender, and savior of Corinth,” and built a monument to him and the dogs who died.
So, do you have any tales of canine heroism to share? Tells us about it in the comments below.
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